Bucksport manager says draft school budget includes $553,000 increase

Posted March 08, 2012, at 10:05 p.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town Manager Roger Raymond presented councilors Thursday with a preliminary municipal budget that is roughly $83,000 smaller than the current budget.

But Raymond warned councilors that the draft education budget for RSU 25 — although far from final — could require Bucksport to contribute an additional $553,000 to the schools. And the town has yet to calculate how much tax revenue will be lost because of the elimination of a paper machine at the Verso mill.

Raymond said the proposed gross municipal budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, is $5,251,365, or roughly 1.6 percent less than the current budget. The decrease is attributable to higher employee contributions toward their health insurance as well as a smaller capital improvement plan.

Revenues flowing into town coffers are expected to decline, however, at a time when education costs are expected to rise. Those factors will put pressure on the town’s mill rate, he said.

“As I noted during a previous Town Council meeting, I believe trying to maintain a stable mill rate will be difficult due to the anticipated loss of valuation at the Verso mill, efforts in the last few years to maintain a flat mill rate and the increase of the minimum mill rate for schools,” Raymond wrote in his presentation to the Town Council. Bucksport’s mill rate is now 12.52.

Education costs for next year remain a major wild card.

RSU 25 continues to work on the budget proposal for next year. The school system expects to lose $300,000 in funding because of the expiration of federal stimulus grants. And Bucksport’s valuation also increased slightly from last year, adding to the town’s obligation.

Raymond said he has been assured by members of the school unit’s budget committee that the spending plan will change but added they remain unsure what the final figures will be. He told councilors on Thursday that he expressed his concerns about the $553,000 increase contained in the draft RSU 25 budget.

“I did share my concerns about the large increase being talked about,” he said. “That would be a very large increase and would be very, very difficult for our citizens to bear, especially for our senior citizens.”

The Bucksport Town Council will hold workshops on the municipal budget on the following dates: April 5 to discuss areas for potential budget cuts, streets and ways, health and sanitation; April 19 to discuss protection and general government; April 26 to discuss community and social agencies; May 3 to discuss recreation, the capital program, debt service, cemeteries and revenues. All meetings will be held at 7 p.m. in the Town Council chambers.

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